Friday, January 11, 2013

NNJMQG Profile... Peggy Kelleher

Guild members will recognize Peggy from her passionate effort to coordinate our contribution to the QuiltCon charity quilt drive, and that is no doubt fueled by her overall passion for quilting. Here, she shares her thoughts on what modern quilting means to her, an intriguing personal history and copious quilting resources. If you'd like to be profiled, email me at melintheattic(at)gmail(dot)com. Happy New Year!

Name and location:  Peggy Kelleher, Montclair 

What do you do in your non-quilting life?
Bookkeeping/accounting on a freelance basis for small businesses and individuals. In my former life (i.e.. pre-children) I was a programmer/systems analyst/project leader in IT. I have 2 grown daughters: Moira is a Veterinarian who works at a big emergency animal hospital in Robbinsville, NJ, and Deirdre is a PhD candidate in Archaeology.
When did you start quilting? How?
I actually started quilting when I was about 20 – many, many years ago. I couldn’t tell you how that came about, just that a group of my friends and I were quilting maniacs for about a 10-15 year stretch. In fact, I started a quilt group in Montclair back then which is still meeting to this day – which I didn’t know until I met Rachel Cochran again at the first meeting of our Guild in June!
I stopped quilting when my older daughter was 2 ½. Suffice it to say that the reason involved straight pins and a 2 ½ year old who needed constant attention! I thought I’d go back to it in a year or so, but then came daughter # 2 and then PTA, soccer, Girl Scouts, swimming, lacrosse, etc. etc. etc.

Last winter I had to get baby shower gifts for my niece who was expecting twins. I ordered 2 baby quilts on Etsy and when they arrived I loved the way they looked, but was somewhat horrified at the poor quality of the workmanship. I thought “Wow – I can do better than that!”, and … here I am!

How would you describe your quilts? Do you have favorite colors, fibers, designs, techniques?
I don’t have any one style of quilts, at least not yet. Since coming back into the fold, I have been reading everything in sight, taking courses, and trying new things with every project. In fact, my main criteria in choosing projects at this point is what I can learn from it -  a new technique or a new concept to try out. I have 30 years to make up, and quickly!
I love all kinds of quilts – traditional, contemporary and modern. It seems as if just the fact that it’s made with fabric of some sort is all that I require! (Except for Sunbonnet Sue – I draw the line at Sunbonnet Sue.) Though I much admire art quilts, for myself I prefer making “useful” quilts; one of the things that most intrigues me about quilting is the marriage of beauty and function. For me, the physical comfort that a quilt can give is almost as important as the visual appeal. I feel connected to the thousands of talented and creative women quilters over the past centuries. Honestly, it’s almost a spiritual thing.

As an aside, I’d like to give my two cents regarding the “What is modern quilting?” controversy. The definition I like best is the one espoused by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr, that it is “expressive of the time in which live”, as Weeks wrote in an article in American Quilter magazine (Sept 2012). Nice and vague – which is how I think it needs to be. Whether that means the use of new styles of fabrics (ex: big, bold prints), new techniques and/or tools, new designs or re-thinking of traditional designs (blocks and/or layouts), new subject themes – they are all modern quilting. To me it boils down to being inclusive and accepting, rather than setting detailed, specific criteria about what constitutes “modern”. That smacks of “rules” and “quilt police” to me!
I don’t have any particular favorite colors, but I do prefer value contrasts in quilts. I love working most in high-quality quilting weight cottons and lean towards geometric designs – ever the Math person, I still love that Geometry!  That being said, I am trying all kinds of things, trying to expand my sensibilities. Ask me tomorrow and you may get different answers.
What inspires you? 
At this point, I’d have to say the great fabric that’s available is what inspires me most. Great architectural design is a close 2nd. Nature? Not so much. I’m just too much of a city girl.

Do you have a favorite quilt, or one that you are most proud of?
I haven’t actually completed a full quilt yet! As part of my intensive re-education, I’ve been working on 4 queen-size BOM quilts.
I’ve also done many, many smaller sewing and quilting projects. I guess my favorite is a ring bearer’s pillow I designed and made for my older daughter’s wedding of which I am inordinately proud!

It was my first only-somewhat successful attempt at free motion quilting. When I quilted the Claddagh ring symbol on the pillow, I inadvertently made the two hands at the bottom very different sizes. I was going to rip the stitches out but my daughter insisted that I leave it alone. She loved that one hand was like her small one, and one was like her then-fiance’s much larger one (he’s 6’4”)…serendipity! So now I really understand what Rayna means when she says “There are no mistakes!”
What are your favorite fabrics to work with?
Way too many great fabric designers and collections to single any out! I’ve also recently become enamored of hand dyes such as those from Cherrywood Fabrics.

Where do you sew? What is your workspace like? What kind of machine do you use?
I use a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 7700 QCP which I absolutely love. Well worth the investment if only for the stitch quality and built in dual feed device. The one drawback is that it weighs a ton, so I just bought a tiny Janome Jem to bring to classes.

My workplace is my dining area. Luckily I live alone, but unluckily the bins of fabric and projects are overrunning my little apartment. Not that that makes me unhappy – far from it! Sure, it’s messy but it makes me so happy to be surrounded by what I love! My fabrics are in plastic bins (cat-proof!) on shelves and all my millions of books and magazines are all in the dining room too. The dining room table is large, and I can leave my cutting mat and sewing machine up at all times. I also have a “Big Board” ironing board – also a great investment. It is placed perpendicular to the dining room table and has made it possible for me to work much more efficiently. Just bought a portable design wall – I hope that proves to be less interesting to the cats then the flannel I had hanging on one wall! 

What is your favorite part of the quilting process? What is your least favorite?
Though I actually love all the parts of the process, my favorite is design. Because I had so much technique catching up to do, I really haven’t given myself much time to do it. I guess I felt that I had to be actively sewing during my quilting time. Now that my skill level is so much improved, I’m committed to spending more time on design. I am a great fan of the Electric Quilt software, btw, and will be working on mastering that as a design tool over the next year.

What are your favorite quilt-related websites? Books?

Wow – this is really hard since there is so much great info out there now.
Websites and blogs
    •    True Up – a blog devoted to fabric - – by Kim Knight
    •    The Electric Quilt blog -  - always fun project and quilt ideas, EQ7 info
    •    EQ community site -
    •    Missouri Star Quilt Co site – like their tutorials for easy projects -
    •    E-mails from Christine Barnes – color expert – sign up for e-mails on her web site;
    •    JWD pattern company blog – lots of inspiration and interesting articles - Joen Wolfrom
    •    Weeks Ringle’s blog -
    •    eQuilter newsletters – you can sign up on their site – lots of info re new fabric lines coming out – the couple who owns eQuilter do a lot of community outreach
    •    Quilters’ Newsletter blog -
    •    Also, the Quilters’ Newsletter site has free TV episodes
    •    Fons & Porter site also has link to lots of TV episodes – you can pay a small annual fee to get access to all of them
    •    Wendy Sheppard’s blog - she is the most prolific quilter imaginable. Seems like she makes a quilt a day! Lots of free patterns too.
    •    Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s blog

    •    Anything by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr – they teach concepts, they don’t just spoon-feed how-tos. They are also aiming to create heirloom modern quilts incorporating excellent craftsmanship and materials.
    •    The Quilter’s Color Club – Christine Barnes
    •    Any of Rayna Gilman’s books
    •    We Love Color – Susanne Woods
    •    Anything by Ruth McDowell (I love how she tells you her thought processes)
    •    Gee’s Bend – The Architecture of the Quilt
    •    Finally, the bible for craftsmanship - The 4 volume (thus far) Quilter’s Academy series by Harriett Hartman. Though I don’t actually practice half what Harriett recommends, at least I am doing it from the standpoint of knowledge, and I have great respect for her.

    •    Quilters’ Newsletter – has both traditional and modern quilts
    •    Modern Quilts Illustrated by Weeks RIngle and Bill Kerr – each tiny issue is a jewel. The patterns are impeccably prepared.
    •    Quilting Arts
    •    The Quilt Life
    •    American Quilter
Do you have a blog or online photo album of your work?
Not yet, but maybe this year!

What are you working on now?
In collaboration with one of my sisters and a friend I’m making a quilt for the Hurricane Sandy relief drive organized by Since we are geographically dispersed (northern NJ, central NJ and PA), we decided to try doing a quilt-as-you-go log cabin quilt. It is turning out well, but (imho) it is more work than actually quilting! The design is a traditional Log Cabin which we thought would be quick and “safer” – i.e., that it would, possibly, be more universally accepted/appreciated given that we have no idea who the recipient will be.

I just finished up a bunch of Christmas-gift sewing projects – A-line skirt, tree skirt, coasters, minky scarves, flannel PJ bottoms, etc. I learned something new with each and used lots of new types of fabrics for me (minky, flannel, silk, etc.) – all things I can apply to my quilt making.

As I mentioned earlier, I am finishing up 4 BOM quilts. One was an online Craftsy class taught by Amy Gibson; the other 3 were run by Pennington Quilt Works. These were great because each block taught me a new, “modern” technique. The 3 for Pennington were all the same blocks, in different colorways – which turned out to be helpful because it often took me 3 times to get the hang of it! All the blocks for those tops will be finished over the next few weeks. Then I’ll have to figure out the settings I want and how to actually quilt those babies!
I’ve signed up for a Craftsy class given by Leah Day to quilt the Craftsy BOM on my home machine – free motion quilting. Will use what I learned to finish the other 3 as well. Also plan to use EQ7 to design the settings for the 3 Pennington BOMs.

I have almost finished designing a quilt for the Rock Paper Scissors Newbies quilting group, using all solids. It is based on a Jacquie Gering design in We Love Color, but incorporating the transparency techniques from the RIngle/Kerr book Transparencies.

I am about 1/3 finished piecing a quilt top using a ripless paper piecing technique I learned in an online class on, taught by Daphne Greig. I designed this quilt using EQ7 and I love how it’s coming out so far. Has a sort of Deco-ish feel to it I think, unplanned of course.

I’m continuing taking courses, mostly online (currently courses by Leah Day, Weeks Ringle and Jean Wells). Gotta love the Internet! How else could I possibly take courses from so many talented people! In addition, I’ve signed up for some in-person courses via the Garden State Quilters guild and a few at the Quilt Festival of New Jersey. I’m also taking a ½ day class at the “Quilting in the Desert” quilt camp in Scottsdale, Arizona – that was all I could squeeze in during a visit to one of my sisters out there. (Rayna is teaching a 5-day course at this camp too.)

My major goals for the the year are: mastering EQ7, learning Adobe Photo Shop Elements (I have a photographer friend who’d like to work in collaboration on quilts based on his photographs), and learning to quilt well on my home machine. I’m also considering taking a long arm quilting class at Olde City Quilts in Burlington. At some point, maybe not this year but the year after, I’d like to try my hand at teaching or writing – I get very excited about sharing what I have learned with other quilters!
So…I am very, very busy and loving every minute of it! I feel a great sense of accomplishment with each new thing I learn to do well. I want to get to the point where if I can imagine it, I can make it – so I need to keep learning every day, with every project.
I have a sign on my fridge which I think sums up my wish for myself and all of you:
May the work of your hands delight your soul!


  1. Loved reading your profile, Peggy! I, too, prefer the vague definition of "modern" quilts. Look forward to see how your work will be influenced by the variety of classes you're taking. What fun!

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